| February 9, 2018

A young woman (Danielle Harris) wakes up in a hospital where no one can see her or hear her, but around every corner the staff of doctors and nurses are performing unnecessary and ruthless procedures on random patients.  As she works to figure out where she is and why, and how to escape this place, she repeatedly finds her self transported back to her car for a few moments before again waking up in the hospital bed to start her investigation over.  It’s unclear if this is a time loop as it seems to function more like a video game level, where the player goes through and collects items only to die and start the level over, but the items have already been collected.  Whatever’s going on is not only confusing to the audience, but also serves zero thematic purpose in the film.

Inoperable feels like a student’s first feature film, but not a good student, or at least not a film student.  The acting is terrible, the camerawork is distractingly busy, it looks like the same hallways is repurposed for every shot, and while I didn’t see the twist ending coming, it was not satisfying or interesting to me.  Danielle Harris probably gives the most natural performance of the cast; the rest feel like people the director just knew from his everyday life.  You got Frank the butcher playing an orderly, Bob the barber getting his guts ripped out, and mom’s friend’s niece Sandra playing the young nursing intern who has to try super hard to wake up an unresponsive patient.  All of these performances and stiff and passionless, and while that style could have worked for the staff of the hospital, Harris’s allies and other people outside of the realm of this hospital should have been cast by better actors, or the director should have not been such a pushover when it comes to trying to push actors to give better performances.

I do appreciate Director Christopher Lawrence Chapman trying to create a unique visual style with his film.  The camera is busy and moving too much, but at least I noticed it and saw a filmmaker trying to find his voice.  He also might put an actress on a roller board and drag her through the set as if she’s floating with the camera from below to try to hide the fact that she’s a foot taller than she should be.  I also appreciate the resistance to jump scares and shocking the audience.  Rather, Chapman seems to legitimately want to find horrific moments and images in the film to unsettle his audience.  I don’t think any of this works out, as I was never concerned about anything that was happening to anyone, but he gets a gold star for effort.

If I were to meet Christopher Chapman, I would probably suggest to him the same thing I suggest to friends of mine who want to make movies: why not cut your teeth on some short films?  I picture him as a teenager running around his front yard with his parents’ camera, or even a cell phone making movies with his friends, but no, you clearly have the knowledge to put a movie together and just lack the skill to fully execute it.  Creating solid short films to learn how to construct a proper story is nothing to be ashamed of, but everyone wants to be the next Spielberg or Tarantino.  Consider this: Martin McDonagh is likely about to win his second academy award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; his first Oscar?  Was for a short film called “Six Shooter,” and that was after he’d already made a name for himself as a playwright.  I think there’s a pretty good idea for a short film in Inoperable, but dragging it out for 90 minutes is painful.

Available now on DVD from Cinedigm.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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